CPO is struck by the fact that the archaeological lobby appears to be seeking to de-emphasize the part the Assad regime has played in the ongoing destruction of Syria's cultural heritage.
Just this week, we've learned that a museum in Ar-Raqqha has been badly damaged by bombing and that more sculptures have been hacked out of and stolen from Palmyra, a site great historical importance.
Yet, one would be hard pressed to find any mention whatsoever of the fact that the only party to the conflict with aircraft capable of bombing is the Assad regime and that Palmyra is under the control of the Assad regime and its military.
What gives? Is it possible the archaeological lobby is giving the Assad regime a pass in hopes of ensuring a return to "business as usual" (i.e. excavation permits and other "collaboration") in the event the government ultimately prevails in the ongoing civil war?
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Giving Assad a Pass?
Posted by Cultural Property Observer at 7:33 AM
Labels: archaeological lobby, poor stewardship, Syria
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Of course! They have been caught with their trousers round their ankles, 'in flagrente', trying to deny they were not about to be involved in what some people might regard as an unnatural act.
I think you might want to perhaps widen your conflict antiquities reading scope.
The air strike damage to the Ar-Raqqah Museum, as well as the looting previously is and has been covered extensively. First by the Syrian Arabic Republic - Ministry of Culture's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) themselves (which if you use the logic presented in this post, could d be considered under governmental loyal by the very nature of being an arm of the government. The airstrike was also covered by ARCA including details of earlier thefts from museum collection (http://art-crime.blogspot.it/2014/11/ar-raqqah-museum-in-syria-continues-to.html). It was also reported on by many archaeologists, many in academic positions, who have no interest in seeking dig permits. Lastly its being covered in Arabic and in French, and in German by many Syrian Heritage organisations.
If you need links to follow to give you a more comprehensive view of who is involved directly or indirectly in reporting, feel free to write us. Our email listed on our website.
L. Albertson, ARCA www.artcrimeresearch.org
The point of the post is that the damage has been discussed but no fingers pointed in the direction where they belong. Why is that?
While I won’t speak for others writing about conflict antiquities issues in the academic sector, I can address my personal reticence at finger pointing in armed conflict and I can assure you it has nothing to do with dig permits or possible government-funded grants. ARCA isn’t involved in first-hand archaeological investigation and the Association has no funded projects in Syria or Iraq, nor have I initiated any funding requests in furtherance of such.
Unless a faction has taken bold and open credit themselves for the destruction of a specific heritage site, I try to refrain from identifying potential culprits. I do this for two reasons. One, I am not in-country, so I strive to steer clear of spreading hyperbole or furthering faction-leaning propaganda. Second, but more importantly, I want to avoid placing heritage observers identifying issues in these countries at risk. Much of what we know has been damaged in Syria and in Iraq is first confirmed by Syrians and Iraqis.
In the case of the Ar-Raqqah Museum in Syria, the collection community needs to also look at things from a military perspective, especially if they are going to attach motives for other’s reporting or non reporting.
When it comes to “The Law of War” historic, religious, artistic, and scientific buildings and sites are not to be intentionally targeted by commanders, but their destruction is permissible in light of the principle of military necessity. Military necessity is, unfortunately, still ill-defined and it holds differing meanings for differing armed forces.
In the US, it means that approval must be obtained at upper levels within the military’s command before heritage sites are intentionally targeted and those commanders granting approval have to weigh military necessity against other humanitarian requirements.
That’s different than one religious-leaning armed faction destroying another religious group’s empty sacred site just because there is ethnic or religious tension between the groups.
In my view, this is complete and utter nonsense. There is one party to the civil war in Syria that has airpower and that is the Assad regime. Bombing a museum without the "military necessity" to do so is a war crime, no? Why not note at least that in your blog?
I also observe that you seem not to have the same reticence when it comes naming specific dealers and collectors you think might be dealing in artifacts from Palmyra, even going so far as to cast aspersions on pieces sold at auction with provenances before the recent troubles. Again, no mention is made of the fact that Palmyra is under government control.
This simply doesn't wash in my opinion. I'm hard pressed to understand how mentioning relevant facts obtainable from open sources somehow endangers Syrians wanting to document the damage.
"I can assure you it has nothing to do with dig permits or possible government-funded grants..." writes lalbertson.
"Assure?" On what evidence? Surely not the word of lalbertson alone.
Whenever I read or hear that word written or mouthed by anyone in either the anti-collecting lobby, or in archaeology circles, I'm reminded of the same "Assurances" given by so-called experts regarding the Piltdown Man, and Hitler Diaries debacles.
Anti-American archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has alleged that American planes may have been behind the bombing, but news reports suggest Syrian air power specifically targeted the area around the museum: http://allgalgaduud.com/2014/11/syria-conflict-raqqa-air-strikes-kill-dozens/
These news reports were based on the work of a human rights activist who apparently does not share ACRA's reticence about fingering the Assad regime for the damage.
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